Saturday, December 18, 2010

Looking back at Brian Cashman's offseason moves

It's December 18. Exactly two years ago today, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett spoke at a press conference introducing them as Yankees. A few days later, word leaked out that Brian Cashman had swooped in and snatched Mark Teixeira from under the Red Sox's Christmas tree. That offseason, combined with the Yanks trading for Nick Swisher, turned out to be Brian Cashman's finest hour. He spent around $425 million that winter, but that spending was well worth it. It helped get the Yankees their 27th title.

At the time, I was excited about CC and Tex, but I thought Cashman spending $82+ million on A.J. Burnett was outrageous. However, I was wrong about Burnett, at least for 2009 -- he was a critical part of the World Series Championship team. 2010, not so much, though!

Last season was mostly a disaster for Cashman. The Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson moves were baffling at the time (I griped loudly against both of the moves.) They made even less sense as the year went on. Vazquez made $11.5 million, and had a negative WAR value in 2010 (-0.2 according to Fangraphs, 0.0 according to Baseball-Reference.) Not exactly good bang for your buck. About the only positive thing that can be said about that trade was that Boone Logan, who was part of the Vazquez deal, turned out to be fairly decent as a reliever.

And remember how Cash said that if Nick Johnson were healthy, he'd be a $15 million a year player? Well, Johnson had all of 98 plate appearances last year, and made $5.5 million. That works out to around $56,122 a plate appearance.

To put those numbers in perspective, Alex Rodriguez made $33,000,000 last year, and had 595 plate appearances. That works out to $55,462 a plate appearance. So, yes, Nick Johnson actually made more per plate appearance than any of the team's regulars, including the guy with the biggest contract in baseball history! For A-Rod's salary, he still hit 30 home runs and came in second in the league in RBIs, even though he missed 25 games. Johnson, as DH, had all of 12 hits, 8 RBI, and 24 walks.

Curtis Granderson turned out to be a very good player in the last two months of the year, and was one of the few players to hit in the playoffs, but Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, as usual, got way too much out of Cashman for him.

As for this year, I can't say I'm very impressed with Cashman's moves so far this winter, other than that I think he was completely in the right on the Derek Jeter issue, and that it was time for Jorge Posada to be a full-time DH. But the Yanks need to do more than to re-sign their veterans (and, for that matter, Andy Pettitte is still not back in the fold) in order to win the division.

The Red Sox won 89 games last season, during a bridge year, with a slew of critical injuries. Now they've reloaded the team with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and even added another bullpen arm with Bobby Jenks. Given that, the Yanks can't afford to stand pat and say, "Hey, we won 95 games last year."

The minor moves Cashman has made so far --  Russell Martin, Mark Prior, and Pedro Feliciano  -- don't exactly compete with that. Prior is a project. The fact that Martin, who had hip issues, just needed to get his meniscus repaired, is a little disconcerting. And Feliciano was very good with the Mets, but Jerry Manuel overworked Perpetual Pedro a lot over the years.

Cashman's Plan A -- signing Cliff Lee -- didn't work out. Maybe he has some great Plan B in the works that's going to knock everybody's socks off. I hope that's the case. But so far, Cashman's offseason this year is not exactly going swimmingly, the way it was two years ago at this time.

What do you think? Tell us about it!


Uncle Mike said...

Interesting, Lisa, that the word you use to describe the Nick Johnson signing is "baffling" -- the word Jeter's agent used to describe the Yankees' offer. The reasons for the Johnson were not all that baffling (he really is a good on-base man when he's healthy, he's just rarely healthy), but it was about as wrong a guess as a GM could make, unless you count bringing back Vazquez.

As J-Boogie pointed out, keeping Pettitte is the priority. Then finding a 5th starter, who could be Ivan Nova, or could be Joba coming out of the pen permanently. (Personally, I'd prefer Nova starting and Joba setting up.)

Then there's the question of Burnett: If he can't bounce back, that's another starter we have to get. If he does, then "95 wins" (usually enough, in this era of the Wild Card, to at least make the Playoffs) will become 100 or more. And let's see the Sox, even with their additions, ride their current pitching staff and beat that.

They have more pitching needs than we do, and who exactly is their closer? Papelbon? They've clearly lost confidence in him. Bard? If they had confidence in him, why get Jenks? And that's not that great a move: He had a 4.44 ERA and a 1.367 WHIP this season, weak numbers for any pitcher and horrendous numbers for a reliever. (A less important question about Jenks: Will he get Pedro's Number 45, which he wore in Chicago?)

Steven said...

Speaking of weird moves - why didn't the Yankees sign Kerry Wood again? Chicago got him for nothing. In addition to being a solid setup guy, he can close to spell Rivera from time to time or if the unthinkable happens with an injury. I actually found that to be the oddest move of the winter in some ways.

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

And if I'm not wrong, it was 5 years ago that Cashman Reloaded signed again to be the GM, supposedly not to be overridden again by the Tampa guys. One really doesn't know what goes inside the Yankee brain trust but I guess A-Rod opting out and then re-signing didn't had an 100% Cashman stamp on it.
Last year Cashman got the Nick Swisher syndrome. He really hit the jackpot in pseudo reclamation project Swisher and thought he would get it with Vasquez and Johnson.
Now he got the reverse syndrome, he didn't get Bobby Jenks who had an awful BABIP just like Swisher had in his last year with the ChiSox. BTW, Kerry Wood had an extremely low BABIP (lucky, in civilian jargon).
But late last year the Yankees could've have used more Abaladejo and Miranda and we had to much of Gaudin and Moseley. At least Albaladejo and Miranda would've been showcased and maybe dealt for better value.
I hope Petitte signs back and that they bring up Montero like the Giants did with Posey so they can have Montero more years under control. Cervelli's 2009 was a fluke and it showed.
Hope to see more of Brandon Laird and less of Ramiro Peña and give Joba another shot at the starting rotation.
Sometimes less is more. A long contract for Cliff Lee would've been an albatross and thank good they are not signing up free agents just to keep up with the Red Sox (see Kei Igawa), because the market was very thin indeed.
It's going to be a tough 2011 for the Yankees. However, A-Gon comes from the NL which we all now is an inferior league but has a little league left wall in his favor. We'll see how all this pans out.

We have a better farm by now but not

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